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Rajinikanth to launch party: Tracing the superstar’s footprints on Tamil Nadu politics

The superstar on Sunday announced that he would float a political party ahead of the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2017 10:55 IST
Priyanka Sundar
Priyanka Sundar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tamil superstar Rajinikanth on Sunday announced his decision to float a political party.
Tamil superstar Rajinikanth on Sunday announced his decision to float a political party. (PTI File Photo )

Tamil superstar Rajinikanth on Sunday announced that he would float a political party in Tamil Nadu, ending months of speculation about the course he would take. But this is not the first time that the star has churned the political climate in the state.

In the past, the actor was directly involved in politics only once. It was in 1996 when he decided to campaign for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) headed by Kalaignar Karunanidhi. At that time the actor had gone head-to-head with the late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa.

He had said, “If Jayalalithaa is voted back to power, even god cannot save Tamil Nadu.”

This statement was considered one of the main reasons for Jayalalithaa’s defeat in the elections by not just political analysts, but also the star himself. According to a report in the TOI, Rajinikanth claimed that Jayalalithaa had lost because of his remark.

The DMK-Tamil Manila Congress alliance emerged victorious that year. His animosity with Jayalalithaa, however, did not sustain time, and the actor and politician mended fences.

Since then, he had never involved directly in politics, but he never stayed too far from it either. In 2002 he decided to start a people’s movement to resolve the Cauvery issue and also to highlight the need to connect peninsular and Himalayan rivers. According to a report in Hindu, he had denied any intentions of becoming a political leader or a statesman. He had even donated Rs 1 crore for the river-linking project.

In 2008, he publicly pledged his vote for the BJP-AIADMK alliance. The Hindu quoted him as saying, “I will cast my vote for the Vajpayee-led BJP front in Tamil Nadu, but I will not force my fans or the public to vote for the same combine.”

At that time too, he stressed that it was not a formal support to the party and also explained that he wouldn’t wrest his fan’s voting right. He had then impressed, “Take a decision on your own. As your fate is in your hands, think well before you act.”

In 2014, Rajinkanth met with Narendra Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The two of them had then addressed the media to underscore that the meeting was apolitical.

“When I was not well he called on me and every week he inquired about my health. I invited him for a meeting over a cup of tea and I am happy he has visited me. Everyone knows that Mr. Modi is a strong leader and an able administrator. Whatever he wants to achieve, I wish him success,” the actor had said and left people to make their own conclusions about whose side he was on.

What has always stayed the same is that in the last 20 years, Rajinikanth’s thoughts on when to enter the array has been the same. The star has been asked if he would enter politics a number of times since 1996 and he has always said something along the lines of, “It would be foolish to think that one is successful in politics due to sheer capability, experience and hard work. It is all a question of time and circumstances. If the time is not right, nothing can help.”

In fact, he was always been considered to be wary, if not hesitant, about politics. Speaking about this at his recent fans meeting, Rajinikanth said, “I am hesitant to enter politics as I am aware of the pitfalls. I am not new to politics, I know its depths. I have been watching politics closely since 1996. If I enter politics, I will have to win. For that I will need a strategy.”

The incident of 1996 that the actor quoted many a time seems to have been the beginning of his understanding of politics. On the third day of his fans meet, the actor said, “I did a mistake by supporting a political alliance 21 years ago. It was a political accident. Since then, politicians have misused my name on several occasions. But I have to clarify, I’m not joining any party.”

Since 2014, BJP has been trying hard to make a mark in Tamil Nadu politics and it had been said that they were looking at Rajinikanth to help them in the region.

Right after Rajinikanth had mentioned that he ‘might’ join politics, BJP leader H Raja was quoted by The Hindu as saying: “The actor has to decide whether he was joining a political party or launching his own party and the BJP would welcome him to the party as it has welcomed the seven crore Tamils to join the party.”

Now that Rajinikanth has finally taken the plunge, it’s to be seen what impression he leave behind on Tamil Nadu politics.